Malaria is pandemic in all parts of Malawi and is one of the main causes of chidren's death. In his blog post, Fabian Emmenegger of Save the Children Switzerland describes how he experienced his visit to the project in Malawi - and how Save the Children is saving children's lives.

“Who here has lost a family member to malaria?”

That’s the question I asked a group of mothers, sitting in the shade of a tree. It was just after noon; the sun was beating down on us and the thermometer had passed the 30-degree mark. It is only now, when nine out of ten women raise their hands and signal the destruction that malaria has brought to their lives, that I realise the terrible dimensions of malaria in Malawi: for children, it is one of the leading causes of death.

How difficult must it be for parents to raise their children in this situation?

We were on the sandy playground of a school in the Zomba district in Malawi, in the southeast of Africa. I was here for a week, visiting a Save the Children Switzerland project, which aims to counteract the spread of malaria throughout the country. I took prophylactic malaria medicines, my clothes were treated with pesticide and I sprayed my skin with mosquito repellent. Nevertheless, I jerked to attention whenever I heard a mosquito buzzing and kept a lookout for mosquitoes transporting the dangerous virus. I was struck by fear of the mosquitoes that transmit malaria: a killer that you can barely hear or see.

Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world and its health system is in a desolate state. Malaria is endemic in Malawi and is one of the main causes of child mortality. As one of the world’s most dangerous diseases, malaria is responsible for 435,000 deaths worldwide each year – and more than half of those are children. Inevitably, I thought of the school children I visited in their classroom less than an hour earlier.

What about them? How can we help them? Are they unwell?

“If we tested 100 students for malaria today, 70 would be positive.”

This is what the school principal told me, revealing a huge problem: children are confronted with the disease almost daily. When they become sick, it is a long way to the nearest health facility – for children at this school in the Zomba district, the journey is almost 10 kilometres. Of course, the route must be covered on foot, because public transport is virtually non-existent in Malawi. It seems totally unacceptable for a sick child to have to travel all this way with the fever, headache, body aches and chills that are the symptoms of malaria.

And this is where the Save the Children project comes in.


In order to screen for malaria quickly and reliably, and to treat its symptoms, we have trained more than 75 teachers in 58 schools in the Zomba and Machinga districts to diagnose malaria. Children can be examined where they are every day: at school. 

Special treatment rooms called “LTK Rooms” (short for Learner’s Treatment Kits) have been set up in these schools. In one room, we met a girl who complained of a headache. Her forehead also seemed to be very warm. Headache and fever are clear symptoms of malaria. Timely diagnosis is very important in these cases. Thanks to the special training given to the teacher, he can do this using a rapid test right there in the treatment room.

It only took fifteen minutes in the hot and stuffy room for the test to display just one rather than two lines: all clear, no malaria. The student was given a painkiller for the headache and decided to return to class.


Although the goal of the project is to diagnose malaria and treat students, it comprises several components that impressed me: each schoolchild has access to treatment within 24 hours – or is referred to a hospital for severe malaria cases. Because time is an important factor in the onset of severe malaria, instead of having the child stay home sick, the severity of the disease can be assessed at school. Other malaria symptoms such as diarrhoea, fever and headache can be treated at school. This means that children are not as unwell and can spend more time in education.

As well as better health care, students also have greater opportunity to receive a quality education.

Thanks to the project, students are much less likely to have time off school; this is something we can see very clearly

school principal


The project, which is co-funded by the Migros Aid Fund, works well – very well, in fact – as we heard from parents, teachers and government staff during our visit.

And to ensure sustainability from the point of view of Save the Children, our goal is for the government to pay for all the costs related to teacher education and medication provision in the near future. What we saw on the last day of our visit showed us that this is possible. In the future, the government wants to pay for the medications in the Zomba district.

This is a remarkable step that will allow the proposal put forward by Save the Children – to expand these treatment rooms to all schools across the country – to be implemented soon. Before long, fewer mothers will have to raise their hands when they are asked about malaria in their families.